We Are All So Good at Smiling

Feiwel & Friends. Jan. 2023. 304p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250780386.
Gr 9 Up–After her parents discover a list Whimsy wrote of ways to stop breathing, she is in the hospital again for clinical depression. She meets fellow patient Faerry, a boy who she perceives as having magical qualities. They subsequently discover they are neighbors, connecting over their intense poetry and their shared experience of being the only two Black kids around. No one understands they are sinking while they are smiling; when you are bruise-less, things are harder to explain. As they begin their healing journey together, they recognize their lives are interwoven by past trauma. The atmospheric imagery and metaphors throughout have such a strong and remarkable undercurrent in this novel-in-verse. The anthropomorphic forest evolves into setting as character. As Whimsy and Faerry push through the forest garden together, they face their demons as part of intricate and unique fairy-tale sequences that represent their layers of depression. Raw and fervent, these characters are cut open literally and figuratively to battle Sorrow, because the only way out is through. Hoodoo is intertwined as they unravel riddles to find the truth and the cause of their shared trauma. The author’s prologue invites readers into her own authentic experiences with depression, offers a nod to Lucille Clifton, and provides a content warning for clinical depression, self-harm, and suicide. McBride also features resources for mental health, a glossary of the fairy tales and folklore embodied within, and a playlist for Whimsy and Faerry.
VERDICT This phenomenal novel-in-verse transports readers into an impassioned tale of heartache and hope that belongs on every bookshelf serving teens.

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